Gloria Nieto

Working For More Acceptance In Hockey

Filed By Gloria Nieto | July 14, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Brendan Burke, Brian Burke, NHL, San Jose Sharks

I am a die-hard hockey fan.Sharks Hockey.jpg I have a T-shirt that says "Bleed Teal" for my beloved Sharks. It sports a number of autographs as does one of my Sharks jerseys. I have pictures of me with a number of players, pucks, signed sticks. Well, you get the idea. Die-Hard.

Here in San Jose, there are number of LGBT Sharks fans. A small number are also fans of other teams. At the end of the three periods, we are all hockey fans. But as one would expect, there seems to be a fairly high rate of homophobia in the sport. (On a personal note, I have never heard it in the stands, not even the drunks. The Sharks themselves are fairly kind to all of us fans, so I can't imagine them being homophobic to us face-to-face.)

Late last year there was a great shift in the force in the National Hockey League. I'd like to see more of that. Here's what happened.

A young man, Brendan Burke, the son of the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, came out in a fairly lengthy article on ESPN in December, 2009.

His father, Brian Burke, is a legend in the NHL. The article, which I hope you read, is so hopeful, so encouraging. It is, in short, a father's unconditional love for his son.

There is no happy end to this story.

Brendan Burke died earlier this year in a snowy car accident. Many words have been written about the grief his family and the entire NHL has felt and expressed. I won't add to this except this - Brendan Burke was my brother.

Recently two of the blogs from SB Nation have featured stories about homophobia in hockey. I read the first one at the Edmonton Oilers blog, Copper and Blue.

I sent an email to the author, Derek Zona and he directed me to another blog on the New Jersey Devils and this article.

Now I have exchanged emails with John Fischer of the Devils' blog about how to keep the conversation going. These two men want to keep the subject of homophobia up front to deal with this discrimination and make a difference in the sport we love.

The Chicago Blackhawks, the current Stanley Cup champions, also did something to honor Brendan Burke. They sent the Stanley Cup to the Chicago Gay Pride parade with one of their players, Brent Sopel.

The Cup is the Holy Grail of hockey. Teams play an 82 game season and then must win four rounds of a best of seven series. So they play four different teams in a best of seven. The regular season starts in October. This year the Cup was finished in May. It has been described as the toughest tournament in the world.

It is my hope that combined with my brother bloggers we can find a way to continue to come through the door Brendan Burke opened for all of us.

I am going to work on doing something when the Leafs come to San Jose. Anyone care to join me? In your hockey town? Kevin? Jeremy? Lance? Julie? Kim? Let's honor our sport and our fallen brother.


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I was very moved by this post, Gloria, particularly your deep affection for the Sharks, and the story of Brendan Burke. Sports is an area where there is a potential to reach many people who are affected by homophobia, both as victims and as perpetrators. Sports fans need to learn that there are gay players and gay fans and that sports isn't about an outdated macho code of homophobia.